Certain Ways to Wreck Your Pastoral Search

As congregations seek new pastoral leadership, anxiety often reigns.  Not Faith over Fearknowing what’s going to happen in future leadership makes people nervous. But I love it when I hear a Pastor Nominating Committee say that they are thoroughly trusting God’s movement in the search process.

This is less prevalent than you’d imagine.  Without exception, I’ve found that – when a pastoral search results in a bad match – the bottom line is that the search was driven by fear rather than faith.

If you want to wreck your pastoral search:

  • Choose a new pastor because you are tired.  You’ve been looking for a while.  Maybe it’s been two years or more in the search process and either you haven’t found “the right pastor” or you thought you found the right pastor but she/he said no so you went with the next candidate although the there was no spark.
  • Create a timeline that has nothing to do with God.  Tell your congregation that “you expect to have a candidate by Easter” or “you plan to introduce your candidate on Christmas Eve.”  This is a terrible idea.  First, the major liturgical holidays are – more than usual – all about Jesus.  Christmas Eve is about Jesus.  Easter is about Jesus.  The 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time is also about Jesus, but it’s a better time to share the good news that your search committee has discerned who your next pastor will be.
  • Consider everything but what God wants.  Maybe a candidate has a stellar resume.  Maybe he has perfect hair and lovely wife and young children.  Maybe she reminds you of a beloved former pastor. Maybe he looks like he should be your pastor.  Here’s the thing:  God might be moving you to choose the bald guy or the 50-something woman or the person with no head of staff experience.  Pay attention.
  • Choose a pastor based on gender.  I know search committees who interview women but they have no intention of calling a woman. Maybe they already have a female associate pastor and they can’t possibly have two female pastors (although notice how many times there have been two or more male pastors on staff at the same time for generations.)  Maybe the last pastor was a woman and you don’t want to call two women in a row. The thing is that God calls the right person to serve regardless of gender.
  • Choose a pastor based on age.  If your search committee is determined to call a “young pastor” you could miss the 60 year old who could cast the right vision.  If your search committee is determined to call a “seasoned pastor” you could miss the 33 year old who is preternaturally wise and perfect for the next season of your congregation’s life.

I love it when a Search Committee introduces their candidate and it’s not what what anyone expected, but it’s the candidate that God has chosen.  My friends, in these days now more than ever, we are utterly dependent upon The Spirit to direct us as we seek new leaders.   Please remember this as you call your next pastor.

3 responses to “Certain Ways to Wreck Your Pastoral Search

  1. Rev. Kelly Moore

    Oh so true!


  2. This is excellent Jan. I should comment more often but most of my comments would be “this is excellent Jan.”


  3. Rev. Christine Vogel

    Great points one and all, Jan. In the search process (or when I served on search committees before being ordained, I could find moments when each of those was true. Search committees — and pastors for that matter — have never been infallible. Some times it takes patience (and faith!) to realize you’re in the right place at the right time.


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